PNG RELIEF SUPPLY LOOTERS "NOT CRIMINALS, JUST HUNGRY VILLAGERS" SAY

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OFFICIALS

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 8, 1998 - PACNEWS)---Drought relief authorities in Papua New Guinea's Enga province say the looters of the Wabag-bound relief supplies of rice and cooking oil Monday were frustrated and hungry villagers, not criminals.

A large number of people stopped the vehicle carrying the supplies and looted 25 tons of rice and 25 tons of cooking oil, The National reports.

Enga Provincial Drought Relief Committee Coordinator Albert Wakas Macksaen also revealed the disturbing news that more than 23,000 people in a remote corner of Enga were in dire need of shelter after bush fires ravaged their homes. He said devastating living conditions and lack of response by authorities was creating tension, leading to events such as the Monday looting and an earlier one December 18.

The victims of the bush fires in the remote Lai-Mariant census division could not rebuild their houses because the fires had ravaged their entire tribal land, destroying all bush materials usually used for building houses.

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